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February 8th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

10 reasons religious conservatives love Rick Santorum

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - For all the attention paid to the clout of fiscally focused tea party conservatives and of the primacy of jobs in the 2012 election, Rick Santorum’s trifecta victories Tuesday night are a good reminder of the powerful role religious conservatives play in the GOP. They fueled Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado - and his earlier victory in the Iowa caucuses.

But why, exactly, do religious conservatives love the former senator from Pennsylvania? There are obvious reasons - his advocacy against abortion and same-sex marriage, for instance - but plenty of less obvious ones, too.

Here’s my list. What would you add?

  1. Santorum’s a family man. “He’s got this big, vibrant family and he left the campaign trail last week to go back and be with his daughter in the hospital,” says Eli Bremer, chairman of Colorado's El Paso County Republican Party, centered around evangelical-heavy Colorado Springs. Santorum recently returned to Pennsylvania to respond to a health scare involving daughter Isabella - the youngest of his seven children - who suffers from a genetic disease. “I spent time with him last year, and he’s constantly thinking about his family,” Bremer says of Santorum. “It’s not just a political stunt.”

  1. He’s not averse to getting politically incorrect when donning culture warrior chain mail. “So if the baby’s toe is in you can’t kill the baby - how about if the baby’s foot is in?” he famously asked U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, in a 1999 debate over a rare, later term abortion procedure that anti-abortion groups call a "partial birth" abortion.

  1. Santorum’s a homeschooling dad. His wife, Karen, is homeschooling or has homeschooled their seven children, making them a poster family for a movement populated largely by evangelical Christians and other serious believers. “It matters because it shows he’s a real part of our movement rather than simply someone who is politically sympathetic,” says Michael Farris, an evangelical conservative who leads the Home School Legal Defense Association.

  1. He’s a devout cradle Catholic. As a kid in Pennsylvania, Santorum the altar boy would spend Sunday mornings pushing hospital patients in wheelchairs to Mass. As a U.S. senator, Santorum attended Mass at St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill each day before work. That piety gets respect with religious voters, regardless of affiliation. “Evangelicals have made him an honorary evangelical,” said Richard Land, public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention.

  1. Santorum’s not Mitt Romney. Millions of socially conservative voters still distrust the former Massachusetts governor on the hot button issues - abortion and same-sex marriage. Some, though not all, are put off by Romney’s Mormonism.

  1. Santorum’s not Newt Gingrich. Many social conservatives, particularly those of the female persuasion, continue to be turned off by Gingrich’s two failed marriages and his admissions of past marital infidelity.

  1. Santorum doesn’t just talk about opposing abortion, he’s legislated on it. As a senator, he was an architect of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He pushed the ban even in the1990s, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and the legislation stood nary a chance of a presidential signature. “He walked the walk,” Land says. “When no one else would carry our water in the Senate, he would.”

  1. Ditto on same-sex marriage. Santorum sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage at a time when many Republicans lawmakers didn’t want to touch such a hot potato.

  1. Santorum’s big on compassionate conservatism. Though he gets the most ink for controversial stances on issues such as homosexuality, Santorum has also been a leading advocate for funding to fight AIDS in the Third World and has led conservative responses to poverty. “A lot of people have a hard time getting Rick Santorum because they’re used to a debate between liberalism and complete free-market approach and he’s not either of those things,” says Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

    1. Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” The former senator “confirms (social conservatives’) view of science as being at odds with a Christian worldview,” tweets Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school in Pennsylvania.

CNN Belief Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (2,587 Responses)
  1. pw

    another religious wack who doesn't know separation of church and state.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  2. jsk

    I am excited for his education reform. instead of studying complicated things like Biology, physics and chemistry, we will just learn that Jesus did it. It may not be accurate, but you can bet science grades will improve across the board

    February 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  3. crs

    I thought this was supposed to be reasons to like him?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  4. Seth

    Santorum (yuck) would be a nightmare for this country. If he can't even understand a simple concept like biological evolution, how can we expect him to understand the complexities of running the nation? We'll be the laughing stock of the world.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  5. Natasha

    Are you serious with this photo? LMBO There are no words.......lol

    February 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  6. truth will out

    this man is a theocrat. the very same reason, he claims Iran is unreasonable. he like Gingrich and Romney are wolves in sheep's clothing. You people have one last shot at saving our republic. It is the man that the global corporate funded media claims is crazy. Ron Paul is still in this thing and still offering the real change Obama promised us. We have yet to try Paul's ideas. We have tried all of the things offered by the rest of this political shills. They haven't worked. The United States is willfully handing over its prosperity to power hungry thugs. If this continues, in 5 years we WILL be Iran. That is all.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • matt

      Actually, Paul's ideas have been tried. They gave us the boom/bust cycle during the 19'th century. Unfettered capitalism with no regulation doesn't create a steady economic system. By the way, he's a social conservative just like the rest of the field. To me, this actually makes him quite a hypocrite. Liberty and no government interference, UNTIL you're talking about people's bedrooms and a woman's reproductive rights.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  7. liberal christian

    Why are so many Christians conservative? Christians, by definition, are supposed to be Christ-like and Jesus was pretty darn liberal!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • truth will out

      you are correct sir!!!!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • John

      I immigrated to the US from Canada in 1998, and I think I'd like to respond to your question.

      1. A self-described 'flaming liberal' I know is one of the most devout Christians I know, as are her family members.

      2. The media and sociologists coin terms like 'left' and 'right', then later 'neo con', 'socialists', etc. Stop buying into it. Obviously, we all need to be able to discuss very large subsets of groups to make a quick point in a conversation, but after 14 years of living in the US, I don't perceive there to be this block of Convervative-anything, nor Social-whatever. I've worked in around 14 states, not all 52, but I find stereotypes like the above to be just that. The media has got yourself and most of us hooked on their definition of a group...what a nice what to guarantee you can develop a reading audience.

      3. People are inperfect...right, left, etc. I've met many people who would describe themselves right, who are not Christian or religious at all, yet because of their ZIP code or Cadillac SUV, are viewed otherwise. I've met several well-to-do people who are devout, and quietly go about their lives bothering no one. I've met several not-so-well-to-do people who are also devout, who quietly go about their lives bothering no one. And, to be honest, I see a bombardment of comments from those clearly not religious in any way here on boards like this who are extremely intolerant of anyone having a belief other than their own.

      4. No other country in the western world has this extreme abortion/religion/atheist/intolerance/etc/etc/etc that the US does, yet they have similar, perhaps even greater, diversity of their citizen populations.

      Summary: I'd neither blame nor credit any group, whatever its label. It's not based on any accuracy that I can see, and consistently leads to blaming groups of people completely uninvolved in the allegations made against them, left, right, religious, atheist, those who love sweet pickles, those who love dill, etc. When you realize the above, a great deal of clarity and peace results.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  8. Mitch

    He's a freak people, wake up!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  9. Todd

    I can definitely see how they are '10 reasons religious conservatives love Rick Santorum'. Except they are not good reasons.

    All those reasons make him sound like another George Bush.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  10. Emily

    This guy stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state of Pennsylvania. He's a liar and a cheat – not very Christian-like if you ask me. Not sure why the mainstream media is not covering this news.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Lorelord

      Thats a lie being spread by propagandists liek yourself. Show me proof or youre a liar.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  11. LLB

    Wow...so people would actually vote for Santorum because he thinks Global Warming is a hoax and doesn't belive in evolution? I'm guessing dinosaurs didn't exist either? I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • MrThor

      I believe he was commentating on how he was not afraid to stand up for what he believed. Not that those were reasons you should vote for him. Try reading the article before you comment.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  12. dave

    Separation of Church and State. I absolutely don't want Santorum to be president, it would be disastrous to have a religious wacko running America. He says he's a "conservative" but then he wants to tell me how I should live my life because of his religion. Thanks but no thanks, I'll take the logical mentality of science over the crazy jesus-freaks any day. The last thing we need is America to get all crazy like the middle-east, which is the poster child for religious ran governments.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Lorelord

      So Dave,

      Im willing to bet you have no problem with Obama violating people's freedom of religion by forcing religious organizations to provide contraception and abortion health care when it violates their very beliefs and moral and religious beliefs? I will never understand how moral beliefs and the practice in integrity is supposed to be dangerous for the country. The fact is, you cant stand morality in any form. You hate religious peole who believe in a power higher than themselves and actually believe that these people, who are driven by honor, righteousness and justice for all of God's people (yes thats you too) or somehow more dangerous than Marxist, communist uptopians like Obama, Paloci and Reid. Hypocracy is wild in America.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • RA

      Actually Lore, your argument was full of generalizations and straw men. So let me lay it out for you.

      When people (selectively) draw their morals from a tome that is roughly 1800 years old (Speaking of New Testament), it conflicts with the realities of modern day. When you adhere so closely to an ancient book, let alone one that's been translated an untold number of times, you become dangerous. You become a fundamentalist.

      So when you look at some Middle eastern cultures, they are fundamentalists. Women have little/no rights, you can be jailed for any form of blasphemy, or even killed for going against what the religion preaches. What you don't realize, is that the United States, via the first amendment has outlawed the creation of any law that pertains to a religion. The United States has freedom of religion, and personal liberties, that quite honestly, I find people like you are trying to curtail, simply because of your religion.

      Also, in stating that "we" have no morality, nor any respect for it, you are incredibly wrong. The notion that you need a religion to induce morality is also a sadistic and false one. The people with true morality can discern right from wrong, or they can recognize a catch 22, a sticky situation, without a hand guide.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  13. yoshiknows

    we are not here to elect a priest who is going to change the values of America – we are here to elect a president who can fix the economy and keep us safe. separation of church and state – Santorum is using his holiness to get elected but he has no practical skills and will easily be tricked into bombing Iran for the sake of "religion" – this guy is using religion to get elected...he's not better than a TV preacher with a Rolex....

    February 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  14. John Doe

    I find myself confused, I know there's a humor writer on CNN that takes sarcastic stances on politics, is this him?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • westward

      If this article isn't satire, the religious nut jobs in this country are worse off than we even could have begun to imagine.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  15. RA

    For a second I thought I was on theonion.com. Because this is absolutely laughable.

    Can we skip November this year? We all know how this story ends.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Larryfw

      I thought the same thing too! It felt as if I had stepped into the Twilight Zone!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  16. Martin

    This guy is just another totally and utterly corrupt politician. It really doesn't matter what they say, once they're in office their only goal is to service their own enormous greed and that of their corporate owners. This applies to both parties equally.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  17. What Is Truth

    Just for the record... a label like "Catholic" or "Evangelical" doesn't mean he knows the Lord and is filled with the Holy Spirit. So... is he?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  18. good2know

    Thanks for the info. I knew almost nothing about Santorum before, now I know FOR SURE I do NOT want him as president. He sounds like a bigoted idiot.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  19. frodo1008

    I agree totally with tokencode, (and I am a true follower of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) science is NOT incompatible with being a true Christian, it is just the extremists such as Santorum that want it to be that way. A good true example of this would be the noted astronomer and Christian Dr. Hugh Ross. Go to http://www.reasons.org/ to find out why!!

    For instance, there is absolutely nothing wrong with God the creator having used physical evolution to bring about humanity as it exists today. And while it may have only taken days (or even microseconds) to a God that lives from forever to forever to do this, it is also true that in terms of our time it took the billions of years that our excellent science people state that God guided evolution in our own time did it in!!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • yoshiknows

      are we going to spend 4 years listening to these idiotic arguments again about evolution and gays or are we going to vote for Mitt and fix this economy and make government more effective and efficient and like Ron Paul – get is out of our lives – this guy has no platform at all, so he's running as the "holy" one – to be that's an abuse of religion

      February 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • MrThor

      Wow, really? So in other words, you can interrupt the Bible to your liking?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • robmcmichael

      Dr Hugh Ross doesn't believe in theistic evolution, he holds to the day-age creationism view. There is no evidence for evolution but there is plenty of evidence for an old earth. Dr. Ross does not hold that we evolved from another species but that God created Adam and Eve in "day 6" about 10-20,000 years ago. I myself have given lectures on these things and have read almost all of his books.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  20. Ken

    I'm beginning to like Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.